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Thursday, October 11, 2007

She's Leaving Home

BEATLES lyrics

Well, obviously I got out. When I was in my late teens, I had this delusion I wanted to be a model. I answered a job ad for "lingerie models" which turned out to be actually selling raffle tickets in bars, dressed in lingerie. It paid decent money, if you could hide enough of your earnings form the home office, and I moved in with one of the other models. A few months later, I moved in with my then-boyfriend, a boy named Pete, who I knew from high school. In May, the year I turned 19, I married him.

That sucked. Pete was an asshole of the highest order. I wish I could say I hadn't known that before I married him, but I did. He gave me ample warning. Anyway, I spent two years trying to make things work. Then I sort of worked myself out backward.

I had wanted to go back to school and get a college degree so I could get a decent job. Lacking much in the way of resources, I joined the National Guard. (In Illinois, they will pay for 4 years of college at a state school.) Basic training was challenging for me, not just because it was supposed to be, but also because I had that attitude of "I can't" so firmly embedded. I really made it harder for myself until I figured out that it was easier to just do whatever it was I was supposed to do, than to try to get out of it. On the other hand, I was totally immune to the "You can't do anything right, dirtbag" aspect of Basic that you see in the movies. Hell, I already knew that!

After Basic Training, everybody in the Army goes to career school, called properly Advanced Individual Training, or AIT. AIT was where things really started to happen for me. That was where the alter personality named Erin was "born." Yep, folks, that's me.

I was different form anything that had come before, and it was just what was needed. In the first place, I was connected to my physical self. I loved food. And alcohol. And dancing. and SEX. I really loved, loved, LOVED sex. I met a boy who shared my interests and we spent every weekend eating, having fun, and enjoying a lot of drunken sex. In fact, we didn't limit ourselves to the weekend. We even found an all-night mess hall with better food than the one we were supposed to use, so we would skip dinner and then sneak out at midnight to eat and fuck.

I hated being told what to do. It was OK being told by the Army; I understood why they did it. It was NOT OK being told by this odd voice in my head (I didn't know what it was yet) that I could not do this, was not capable of that. I said, fuck that voice. I'll do it if I want to.

I got a tattoo.

Took the Grayhound home to meet my husband. After a 5 months separation, he left me waiting in the Grayhound station for several hours before he could be bothered to come get me. One of the very strangest moments of my existence was the realization that I didn't know what my husband looked like. I didn't have a picture, and I, as Erin, had not met him and could not access the memory of his face. The alter who had married him thought he looked like James Dean. When I did see him, I only knew who he was because he called out to me. Short, homely, with mean, small eyes. "That's it? " I thought. I wanted to turn and run. I should have.

Pete had been in the Navy, but after his enlistment ended he found a small apartment in his home town, and that is where we went to live. Within two months, what was left of my marriage fell apart. I didn't like Pete in the first place. He was not fun to be around on a good day, and downright mean on a bad one. Passive aggressive, bullying, spiteful. Hateful. I had an attitude of "I don't need this. I have survived worse than you! I could blow you up if I so chose!" (I could, too.) His verbal and abuse failed to have any real effect on me. He might have been able to make me cower one minute, but the next, I would be back about my business as if nothing had happened. The abuse escalated to physical dimensions. A treacherous friend told him about my affair with the boy in AIT. I came home from an exercise class and found all my belongings on the sidewalk, many smashed. Pete and the "friend," who apparently had been sleeping with him, were inside the apartment with the door locked from the inside.

I drove to my mom's house. Started therapy and divorce proceedings. The first boyfriend was still living there, now in my old room. I felt completely displaced, staying in a make shift room that had once been the den.

That is when I found my alters (alter personalities) and the world started to make sense to me. I began to understand that my particular role in the Sisterhood, as we called ourselves, was to be a healer. I took an extreme geographical cure and joined the regular Army. I arranged to be stationed in Germany.

Make no mistake. I went into the Army a spoiled, damaged, frightened kid, and came out a woman. In 4 years made I friends, got therapy, had amazing sex (and enough not-so-great sex to know the difference), discovered the food and wine and scenery of 7 countries, got my bachelors degree, and learned how to ride a motorcycle. I did things I never dreamed I could do. Blowing off sexual harassment, navigating impossible work situations, and going days without sleep are do not figure prominently in recruiting commercials, but those were the kinds of obstacles I faced and conquered. I also bought a computer and enough furniture and housewares to fill my first apartment, and then some. I had a fantastic love affair, terminated a couple of stateside things that just were not working out, and came home with a real job already lined up.

I spent about two years not talking to my mother AT ALL. I felt better that way. I only started talking to her again because my grandma begged me to.

The alters, having healed sufficiently during this separation, began to merge into me, giving me their memories and some of their talents. I filled out and became a more complete person. Multi-faceted, but whole. By the time I came Stateside, there was only one alter left, a protectress named Storm. In her usual stubborn, protective way, she relaxed into me only when she judged I was capable of watching my own back. I had known it when the others merged. I had felt it when the babies had snuggled in and sort of melted into me. The older girls and women held a little ceremony one night. In the rich theater of our own mind, each came to me, told her memories and her talents, and then gave me a hug and stepped into me. Years later, when I had lived in Chicago for several years without getting myself killed, and was engaged to be married, she let go. She eased into me so gradually, so gently, that I never noticed. One day I recalled, in the first person, something that had been her memory to hold. That was when I knew the last boundary had dissolved.

A year of so later, my fiance died of cancer. I had never felt so alone in my life.

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